If you’ve ever been to England, you might know that they have an amazing tube, or subway, system. In fact, it’s been recognized as one of the best in the world. When making your way through London on the tube, you can’t help but see a specific phrase everywhere as you climb in and out of the bustling compartments.
“MIND THE GAP.”
It’s such a simple phrase, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how relevant it is to the work that lies before us. We need to start minding the gap if we want to be a distinctive group of professionals who are thoughtful and reflective about our thinking and feelings.
Since I started working at Siegfried, I’ve really begun to take the concept of thoughtfulness and reflection to heart. We hear it spoken over us as a sort of mantra at almost every Firm event as our leadership team urges us to be professionals who practice a life of greater contemplation. Because of this, I’ve asked myself what it really looks like to be contemplative in today’s world and why this practice is so important.
Sharing the message
In the last few years, I’ve spoken at various conference and events in Miami and other parts of the country. Generally, my presentations are a mixture of sharing my faith and motivational messages to help audiences understand how I’ve discovered we can live a truly abundant life. More recently, I started introducing some of Siegfried’s leadership advisory tools into my messaging. These tools, which I’ve found some incredible benefits in, can help others begin to transform themselves into better leaders.
At each MY Journey® and leadership event I attend, I’m lucky to learn a great deal about the characteristics embodied by great leaders. It’s as if I’ve been discovering valuable treasures and I feel compelled to share this treasure with others.
Minding the gap
Recently, I’ve started to share with others the importance of “minding the gap.” This idea isn’t original — it actually began as a seed planted during the first MY Journey® I attended, back in 2017. That was the first time I heard Rob use that powerful phrase and he encouraged us to take some spacious, quiet time to be reflective about our thinking and our feelings.
When I heard that, I began my own journey of understanding the reasons why this concept is important and how I could take some practical steps to become a more contemplative professional. A contemplative person can be defined as many things, but what I’ve discovered is that it’s the decision to dedicate time to be thoughtful that’s most important.
Everything’s competing for our attention
We all have too many things competing for our attention. Work is a big one. We spend the majority of our lives at work, and when we leave our jobs after a long day, we immediately prioritize the few other activities we can fit into the time we have left. Perhaps it’s family or exercise or friends. Whatever it is, it can sometimes seem impossible to fit in any time for contemplation. So what do we do?
I’ve found that one of the main ways we can find more time for quiet reflection is to leave “screenland.” What do I mean by screenland? Well, think about this for a minute. You’re in line at the grocery store, you have your basket or cart. There are a few folks in front of you, and you have a couple of minutes to spare. What do you do? You might look around for a minute, but then out comes the screen.
Or perhaps you’ve signed in at the doctor’s office, and you’re in the waiting room. There’s a few magazines there, but do you reach for them? Your head goes down and the screen comes out. We have passports from our country of origin, but we’re all citizens of screenland. It’s the new norm.
In a way, we’ve unknowingly become Pavlovian dogs. Our culture has trained us to pull out our screens and fill the gap. These little gaps, these little mundane moments throughout the day that we all experience. We’ve been trained to fill those gaps with news updates and social media and checking ESPN. It’s no mistake that we’ve all become addicted to our screens, and there’s nothing neutral about this.
A polarized nation
Here’s why it matters. A lot is happening in our world, and there’s so much anxiety and anger in the air. Our country is by far the most polarized that it has ever been in my lifetime. The racism, the sexism, and the violence in the last year alone shock us. I’ve come to believe that we need time to process all this confusion. We need moments to simply be still, centered, and reflective. Unfortunately, stimuli bombard us all the time, and it’s difficult to find the space to make sense of our lives, careers, and our world.
We all know how addictive our phones and social media can be. Back in 2002, a BBC news article shared that people who are constantly stimulated by screens can develop the attention span of that of a goldfish, which is about 9 seconds.
Our phones are upending us. They’re actually changing and shaping our brains. Humans have never had this much effort and money and expertise and creativity being spent to fill all of the little gaps and mundane moments that happen throughout the day. Time that could be better spent thinking, processing, reflecting, pondering, and feeling. I find it difficult sometimes at work to not touch my screen every few minutes to check on my phone. Just to check. I find myself scrolling on social media for longer than I should. Out of boredom, out of curiosity and even out of comparison. And what a waste of time it is.
Leading meaningful lives
We’re in an age where becoming professionals who practice contemplation is more important than ever. Amid all the activity and craziness around us, we have to learn to become more thoughtful and reflective about our thinking and feelings to lead more meaningful lives. Otherwise, we’re just reactive.
Blaise Pascal put it best, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Again the state of our world right now and especially this country is anxiety and hyper-reactivity. Many people are angry. And anger is an incredible motivator — it’s just not always the right one. I think real change lies in serving and helping others. Change takes sacrifice and genuine love, and requires a mission to put others first and seek to understand before being understood. I think real change lies in Siegfried’s higher purpose: We help people transform themselves into better leaders to exponentially improve their lives.
Finding quiet time
How do we, as professionals, incorporate more contemplation in our lives? Let me offer some practical tips that have helped me in my journey.
- Create time: In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis unpacks the idea of pushing back the animals. The one hundred and one things that come rushing at you the moment you wake up in the morning. All the various tasks and events you have to do for that day. Lewis talks about creating time, preferably in the morning, where you push back the animals and cultivate a quiet space. Listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger life come flowing in. Time for some thinking and reflection. It can set you up for a much more powerful day emotionally, physically and of course spiritually.
- Put the screen down: I use the small moments between errands, or at my lunch break, or walking up and down stairs for meetings, or even at the doctor’s office to steer away from screenland and mind the gap. I have begun to try and quiet myself with some thinking, reflection, and journaling. It’s challenging at first, but the more you practice it, the more habitual it will become. I found that the only way you truly learn from the past is to reflect on it. Without reflection, we cannot truly understand how to move forward with greater wisdom.
In a culture of much distraction, anxiety, and tension, I have hope that we can all become people committed to minding the gaps as we seek to help people experience real and lasting transformation. It’s the best way to truly experience unimaginable transformation ourselves.